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Open, Connected, Social - Implications for Educational Design

Open, Connected, Social - Implications for Educational Design

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Published by Alec Couros
Draft #1 of a paper for ICICTE, Corfu Greece 2008.
Draft #1 of a paper for ICICTE, Corfu Greece 2008.

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Alec Couros on Jun 26, 2008
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OPEN, CONNECTED, SOCIAL – IMPLICATIONSFOR EDUCATIONAL DESIGNAlec Couros, Ph.D.Faculty of EducationUniversity of Regina3737 Wascana ParkwayRegina, Saskatchewan, CanadaS4S 0A2Tel: 306-585-4739E-mail: alec.couros@uregina.ca
Abstract
In January 2008, a new Graduate course in Education wasoffered at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina. Theonline course, “Open, Connected, Social”, utilizes Web 2.0 andopen source software tools to promote, engage with andcritically interpret emerging digital pedagogies. Students participated in collaborative activities that helped developstudent self-efficacy, improved technological competencies,and positively influenced student perceptions of educationaltechnology. This paper shares the theoretical foundations of thecourse, a description of course activities, assessments andexperiences, and describes early successes and lessons learnedin the design and facilitation of this unique experience.
Introduction
This paper describes the development and facilitation of “Open, Connected,Social”, a graduate course in educational technology first offered in January,2008, at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina. This online course,facilitated primarily through the use of Web 2.0 and open source software, wasdesigned to foster an immersive experience where participants could engage inand critically interpret digital content, tools and emerging pedagogies. This paper is written from the perspective of the course developer and facilitator. Itis a descriptive piece, and precedes the formal research and data collection processes set to begin May of 2008.These sections will follow. First, the paper begins with a discussion of theoriesand concepts that informed the guiding principles for the course developmentand facilitation model. Second, the course format is described including adescription of assessments, activities, and network experiences. Finally, thereis a discussion of perceived, early successes and lessons learned through thedevelopment and delivery of this course.
Theoretical Foundations
The development of EC&I (Education, Curriculum & Instruction) 831 waslargely influenced by three theories: social cognitive theory, connectivism, andopen thinking. These theories informed a model of course facilitation thatstressed student immersion in social activities, the development of socialconnections, and the use of free and open technologies and processes
 
including open source software, open content, and open publishing.
Social cognitive theory
Social cognitive theory finds its early roots in the area of social learningtheory originally proposed by N.E. Miller and J. Dollard (1941). Sociallearning theory helps to explain how humans adopt behaviours through theobservation of others. If individuals perceive positive, desired outcomesrelated to a specific behaviour, they might be more likely to imitate and adoptthe behaviour themselves. Bandura and Walters (1963) broadened this theoryto include observational learning and vicarious reinforcement. And later,Bandura (1997) added the concept of self-efficacy, “people's judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attaindesignated types of performances” (p. 391).Self-efficacy is a focal point of social cognitive theory, and helps todistinguish it from earlier social learning theories. Bandura (1997) consideredself-efficacy beliefs to be the most influential arbiter of human activity and itis an important concept in conceptualizing student-centred learningenvironments (Lorsbach, 1999). Bandura (1997) introduced four factorsaffecting self-efficacy. These include:
Experience: Past experiences are an important factor in influencingself-efficacy. Simply put, success raises self-efficacy and failurelowers it.
Modeling (or Vicarious Experience): Individuals comparethemselves with their peers. If individuals view success in peers,self-efficacy will likely increase.
Social Persuasions: This concept relates to encouragements anddiscouragements. Positive reinforcement or assessments from peershave a favourable effect on self-efficacy.
Physiological Factors: Physiological responses may influence anindividual’s self-efficacy. For instance, if an individual becomesstressed or anxious when using technology, they may view this as asign of their own inability. However, for those with already higher self-efficacy, this nervousness may be perceived as a normalresponse to pressure.Social cognitive theory and these four factors related to self-efficacy wereimportant considerations in the development of activities and assessments inEC&I 831. Specifics will be outlined at the end of this section.
Connectivism
While social learning theory finds its roots in both behaviourist and cognitivisttraditions, connectivism (Siemens, 2005) appears to be heavily influenced bytheories of social constructivism (Vygotsky, 1978), network theory (Barabási,2002: Watts, 2004), and chaos theory (Gleick, 1987). Connectivism is alearning theory that emphasizes the importance of non-human appliances,hardware and software, and network connections for human learning. Thetheory stresses the development of “metaskills” for evaluating and managinginformation and network connections, and notes the importance of information
 
 pattern recognition as a learning strategy. Connectivists recognize theinfluences that information and communication technologies have on humancognition, and theorize that technology is reshaping the ways that humanscreate, store, and share knowledge.Principles of connectivism that are relevant to the development and facilitationof EC&I 831 include the following:
Learning and knowledge rests in diversity.
Dynamic learning is a process of connecting “specialized nodes”(people or groups), ideas, information and digital interfaces.
“Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currentlyknown.”
Fostering and maintaining connections is critical to knowledgegeneration.
A multidisciplinary, multiliteracy approach to knowledgegeneration is a core tenet of connectivism.
Decision-making is both action and learning; “Choosing what tolearn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through thelens of a shifting reality.” (Adapted from Siemens, 2005)A connectivist approach to course design acknowledges the complexities of knowledge management and learning in the digital age. Course facilitators andstudents can leverage knowledge networks for personal knowledge generation,sharing, and collaboration.
Open Thinking
The third major theoretical influence for the development and facilitation of EC&I 831 was the concept of open thinking. This concept is derived from adoctoral research study of teachers, educational administrators, educationaltheorists, and technical experts who had moved away from the use of  proprietary software and publishing processes toward open source, openaccess, and democratic publishing tools and philosophies. Open thinking, in part, is defined as “the tendency of an individual, group or institution to give preference to the adoption of open technologies or formats in regards tosoftware, publishing, content and practice. Open thinkers critique, questionand seek to reject technologies or formats that compromise the power of adopters, especially in the freedom to use, reuse, edit and share creative worksand tools” (Couros, 2006, p. 148).
Synthesis
Social cognitive theory, connectivism and open thinking were the three major  philosophical influences for the development and facilitation of ECI&I 831.From these theories, guiding principles for the course were synthesized andestablished. They include the following:
The instructor and assistants will assume roles as facilitators andsocial connectors, rather than deliverers of knowledge.
Course content will be offered through conversations with invited

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